The Osborn House at Far Away Farm bears the scars of battle – visitors can still see a cannonball lodged in the wall.
The ground around Jefferson County is littered with history. Literally. “I got a call a few weeks ago from a kayaker who was paddling along the shore in front of the cement kiln along the Potomac River downstream from Shepherdstown. He told me he spotted a 19th-century hammer sticking out of the mud,” said Mike Nickerson, president of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA). The cement kiln marks the riverside edge of the ground that was contested for two days following the larger battle in Antietam in September 1862. As wounded Confederate soldiers still lingered in Shepherdstown, Union regiments chased a rear guard of Confederates across the Potomac and fought over the bluffs above.
The kiln ruins sit on land previously preserved with the assistance of the SBPA, which has coordinated locally with the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission and the Farmland Protection Board to work with the American Battlefield Trust, the National Park Service, and the US Department of Agriculture to preserve multiple parcels covering 500 acres on and around the the battle site. The battlefield preservation area is set to enlarge to 622 acres later this year, with the completion of the pending conservation easement on the Far Away Farm — a key parcel that lies at the center of the battlefield area and was previously targeted as a development site for 150 houses.
The American Battlefield Trust is scheduled to sign the contract on the Far Away Farm on November 30. To date, the SBPA has raised $30,000 of a $100,000 goal required as a local contribution to the farm purchase, and West Virginia has also provided a $300,000 Outdoor Heritage Grant to the effort. Fundraising efforts are ongoing and once the local target is met, the land can be transferred to the Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle, then to the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission.
The Shepherdstown Battlefield Protection Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The SBPA can arrange tour guides for the extended battlefield site and welcomes new members and donations to support ongoing efforts to preserve the battlefield site and provide public education about the battle. More info at ShepherdstownBattlefield.org. Visitors can also view a map and information on display at the new Shepherdstown Library.By Staff Contributor